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Fifty Lakes: Council, staff hold workshop to improve communications

Tensions mounted at Fifty Lakes City Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 13, as the city council discussed holding a workshop for city employees and council members to improve communications in the city.

"We need to do something very soon," council member Mark Bradley said of the state of communication in the city.

Topics of discussion at the Feb. 13 council meeting included the possible mishandling of a theft allegation case, a resident controversially being banned from the 50 Lakes Bar and Bottle Shop, till shortages at the bar and updating the bar's point of sale system.

Several residents spoke during the meeting's open forum about unfollowed policies in the bar and city hall and poor communication between city employees and citizens.

Mayor Tim Anick said he recently spoke with Gary Buysse, of the Minnesota Municipal Beverage Association, who offered to come to Fifty Lakes and hold a workshop for city employees and council members that could help with the city's communication issues.

"Just based on candid discussion with (Buysse), he understands that right now there are issues, both with the council and staff," Anick said, adding that Buysse can help council members and staff better understand those issues and get everyone on the same page.

The council later scheduled the workshop - which was open for public viewing but not comment - Tuesday, Feb. 20.

In other business Feb. 13, the council:

• Heard there was an off-sale shortage of $65.97 in the bar last month, which is more than 25 percent of the bar's earnings. Council member Linda Steffen asked what was being done about this, and Anick said it's an ongoing problem at the bar that needs to be corrected.

• Approved raises for Maintenance Supervisor Bill Bright, Clerk Karen Stern and Deputy Clerk Ann Raph all retroactive to Feb. 1. The raises are: $1.50 per hour for Bright, 2.2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for Stern, and $1.11 per hour for Raph to put her at the maximum amount for her pay range. The council will look at a raise for Stern after her employee review is done, and Stern said she is working on a new job description for Raph that will likely increase her pay range and result in a more substantial raise. Raph has been working to update the POS system at the 50 Lakes Bar and Bottle Shop on top of the duties in her job description.

• Approved Mike Milbrath's application for a full-time spot on the planning commission.

• Learned the fire department recently had a surprise visit from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and no major issues were found. Fire Chief Andy Hemphill said the visit was strictly routine and not the result of a complaint.

• Discussed a possible mutual aid agreement with Crooked Lake Township for public works services, such as clearing downed trees after a storm.

• Tabled a decision to buy electronic radar signs for the town until Bradley said he could do more research on battery versus solar-powered signs.

Theresa Bourke

I started at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and the Brainerd School District. I follow city and school board officials as they make important decisions for residents and students and decide how to spend taxpayer dollars. I look for feature story ideas among those I meet and enjoy, more than anything, helping individuals tell their stories and show what makes them unique.

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